“Can you take us to this hotel please?” I asked the tuk tuk driver.
He shook his head, “No, that hotel burned down.”
“Burned down? I just spoke to them on the phone…”
He held his hands apart and looked slightly hurt that I was doubting him, “Hotel closed,” he insisted, “I take you to one much better.”
Time for the Bad Cop.
In India, catching a tuk tuk and negotiating the fare – or even the simple existence of the destination – is a national pastime. Not one driver, in three months, took us where we wanted to go without comment, argument or an all out fight. At first, this grates on the nerves and then you cant help but be brought down by it. Then you feel victimised for being western and (relatively) rich. You start to think that they are all out to get you personally. However, it is none of these; it is an official sport. Take it as a sport, a sparring match, and you suddenly find it fun.
And you develop tactics.
Our tactic is to use the old Good Cop, Bad Cop routine, but with a twist. The twist being that I, the large white man in slightly military clothing, am not the bad cop. Cesca is. There is something about confident English women that is like Kryptonite to a tuk tuk driver. We sometimes really played it up. Cesca would fake anger at the guy and then I would step in and take his side.
“But Darling,” I would plead, “he has to earn a living, I am sure he is not ripping us off.” I would then give the driver a look, one I practiced, which said ‘Hey buddy, look at this, I have an angry white women here. I know you need to rip us off, you know I know, but please let’s just defuse this bomb before it goes off and we both look embarrassed’. It was a kind of shared-trauma pleading look.
Worked 90% of the time. The 10% is a story for later…
It was very easy to feel a little guilty about such behaviour, but honestly this is just part of the game as well. There is no White Man’s Burden, I didn’t owe anyone being “gouged” (the travelers term for rip off rides).
Cesca looked the guy in the eye and scowled – something she is very good at, “We want to go to this one please?” She said proffering the Lonely Planet aloft.
This guy was not cracking, “I not take you to that one,” he said.
Time for Phase Two. […]